Author Biography

Helen E. Christensen is a PhD candidate and an associate at the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on examining the practice and professionalisation of community engagement and public participation in Australian local government.


Public institutions in Australia are subject to increasing statutory requirements to engage their communities, and consequently the number of practitioners has increased. These participatory and deliberative practitioners design, deliver, and evaluate democratic processes on behalf of public institutions. This article argues that the practitioner body has broadened, where different types of practitioners can now be identified in Australia. This broadening is the result of three main variables: (1) whether practitioners are employed by or contracted to public institutions; (2) whether they are engaged to work on projects with limited or considerable scope; and (3) whether they are focused on limited time frame processes or entire programs. Drawing on the results of a mixed method study, including survey and semi-structured interviews, this article explores the work contexts that shape the contemporary Australian practitioner, drawing lessons that can inform their practice in other contexts.